We shouldn't have to care for our parents

In her book "Why we owe nothing to our parents", philosopher Barbara Bleisch explores the triggers of guilt and gratitude, and argues that it is society, not children, who should care for elders.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
We shouldn't have to care for our parents - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Our parents gave us life, but does that mean we owe them something? Swiss philosopher and author Barbara Bleisch says "no". 

She makes an undeniable point -- none of us asked to be born.

In an interview with Der Standard, she says:

"Neither the gift of life nor the 'thickness of blood' nor parental care impose moral obligations on children: children did not ask for their existence, and raising children is the duty of their parents. [...] Therefore, to see children in adulthood as moral debtors of their parents does not convince me."

Bleisch adds that, although one does not have to be grateful, appreciating one's parents is nevertheless "a fine move".

In her enlightening plea for a new perspective on the welfare state, Bleisch also appeals to society, saying that it should guarantee all people a dignified life in old age. In a society where children are required to take care of their parents when they are older, the state must offer additional support. But, ultimately, not all children can take on nursing duties, especially when such duties tend to be unfairly left to women. She adds:

"If women are to be involved in gainful employment, leadership positions and supervisory boards then they must be relieved of their family duties. If family is an important pillar of society, then society should support the family when needed."

Details from the story:

  • Barbara Bleisch (44) is a Doctor of Philosophy.
  • Since 2010, she hosts the program "Sternstunde Philosophie" on Schweizer Radio and Fernsehen (SRF).
  • Since 2013, she is a columnist for "Philosophie-Magazin".
  • She currently works as a lecturer at the Ethics Center of the University of Zurich.
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